What is it about?

The Coatzacoalcos River is one of the most important rivers in Mexico. The oldest map of this river was drawn by Francisco Gali in 1580. Unlike most maps made in New Spain in the last quarter of the sixteenth century, this map is purely European in style and is somewhat reminiscent of a nautical chart. Analysis of the map suggests that it was made hastily. Both the errors in the distances and the numerous corrections that can still be observed support this conjecture.

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Why is it important?

It seems that Francisco Gali was more interested from his point of view as an explorer and navigator in the most important aspect of the region: the possibility of connecting the North Sea and the South Sea through the Strait of Tehuantepec. In this respect, the map of Coatzacoalcos would have been drawn to show the viability of using the river as an interoceanic passage.


Despite the limited number of maps in our possession that were produced by Gali (two signed and an attributable third), historical documents refer to him not only as a marine expert, but also as a cartographer and cosmographer. However, Francisco Gali is known worldwide for his transpacific journeys.

Dr Manuel Morato-Moreno
Universidad de Sevilla

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The Map of the Coatzacoalcos River (1580): The First Cartography of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, The Cartographic Journal, August 2022, Taylor & Francis,
DOI: 10.1080/00087041.2021.1995126.
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